It’s finally happened.
I’ve cracked and gone full religious fanatic. Which is pretty funny, coming from an atheist.
After much turmoil surrounding the sale of our house and purchase of a new one, I’ve come to a place where I need to rely on much more than my own “positive thinking.” (I put that in quotes because as much as I try, I always end up over on the dark side going, “Fuck this shit, I give up.”)
Last night I received a package from my Auntie Dee, who owns a religious store. She had sent us a statue of St. Joseph, the patron saint of selling homes. Her instructions were to bury him in the yard and say a prayer every morning. When my mom told me she had mailed the package, my initial reaction was, “ummmm, I’m not doing that.” By the time it came in the mail, I raced outside to bury that statue faster than you can say, “Madonna Mia!”
I looked for a spot where I thought he could watch over the whole house, and where it would also not be too much of a pain in the ass to dig up. I found the perfect location, amongst the wood chips in our “flower bed” in the backyard (that has no flowers, only dying grasses and a rosebush with no roses). I dug and dug, and the ground was tough and unyielding, but the statue was small, so I felt I had reached the appropriate depth after only a minute or two. As instructed, I shoved St. Joseph head-first into the hole. I was about 2 inches shy, so I pulled him out and dug down further, this time grunting and sweating because, by God, I couldn’t get him in there fast enough. When I reached over to pick up the statue and bury him again, I picked him up and to my horror discovered…
I had decapitated him.
St. Joseph the Protector was now St. John the Baptist.
Quickly, quickly, I dropped the head into the hole with the body and buried it as fast as I could, so as to pretend it really didn’t happen. I felt like a murderer burying one of my victims. I knelt down in the grass, squeezed my eyes shut, and said a prayer, shutting out the image of the severed statue head and hoping to God that I didn’t just screw us over even more.
To make doubly sure I didn’t just curse my house, I ran inside and immediately lit a stick of sage, walking through each room and releasing it of its negative energy, praying for positivity, prosperity, and happiness (all while St. Joseph’s vacant eyes on his body-less head kept floating into my thoughts). When I finished smudging the house, I opened all the windows to let out the lingering smoke and release the negativity. Then I sat down and laughed to myself for a good 30 minutes.
You see, as much as I thought I was losing my Italian heritage, I can never escape the one thing that binds all us olive-skinned folk together (besides Italian Mother Guilt): superstition. We wear our cornicello (“little horn”) necklace to ward off the evil eye. We do the sign of the cross anytime anyone mentions a family member who is sick or who recently passed. And us Italians who settled in the northeast combine our Catholic-based superstitions with New England traditions, never putting away our winter coats until it’s well into May (otherwise we’ll invite the snow back with our optimism), and never in-the-bagging a Red Sox game until the final out of the final inning.
So, despite my blunder, I will say that prayer to St. Joseph every morning—even though it makes me feel like a giant hypocrite. I will not consider the beheading a warning, but an amusing anecdote, even though this is not the first time a religious relic has been mailed to me and lost its head. (Seriously…my cousin sent me a guardian angel after my miscarriage, and it arrived in the mail with its head broken off.) I will embrace my Italian superstitions, however silly they might seem, because at least they give me hope.
And if all else fails, I can tell my son the really funny story about how we couldn’t sell our house because Mom decapitated a Catholic saint and buried him in the backyard, like a good Italian does.